1907 Plain Edge, Wire Rim Indian Eagle, Judd-1902
1907 $10 Wire Rim Indian Head Ten Dollar, Judd-1902, formerly
Judd-1774A, Pollock-1996, R.8, PR62 NGC. It is believed that
this specimen is the sole surviving representative of the plain
edge 1907 Indian eagle pattern, although there is an outside chance
that a second example may still exist. The plain edge coins were
struck from newly created dies before the segmented collar was
finished. In a July 28, 2008, Coin World article, P. Scott
Rubin compared this piece to the Ultra High Relief double
PR62, Likely the Only Coined Example of
His Work That Saint-Gaudens Ever Saw
"It is so closely related to another pattern that has always been collected with the regular U.S. coinage that it is hard to separate the two. The other coin is the 1907 Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle, or twenty dollar gold piece."
The offering of this specimen in our January 2003 FUN Signature was the first-ever appearance of the plain edge pattern. No previous provenance exists for the coin. Roger W. Burdette remarked to Rubin that two plain edge patterns were struck in July 1907. One was sent to Treasury Secretary George B. Cortelyou and forwarded to President Theodore Roosevelt; the other was sent to Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Rubin remarked: "The latter information was startling to me and immediately made the 1907 plain edge eagle one of the most historically important numismatic items in history."
Archived letters show that the coin sent to President Roosevelt was eventually returned to the Mint, while the piece sent to Saint-Gaudens disappeared from the historical record. Unless by chance that second example survives today in some long-forgotten cache, the present piece is not only unique, it is quite likely the only actual coin of his design that the sculptor personally saw. All other Indian eagles and Saint-Gaudens double eagles were struck after the artist died on August 3, 1907.
On the other hand, if this is the example sent to Cortelyou and forwarded to Roosevelt, it is also historically important. In Renaissance of American Coinage, 1905-1908, Roger W. Burdette notes: "The experimental plain edge coin sent to the secretary [Cortelyou] was recorded as being returned to the mint on August 20; the Saint-Gaudens piece was still at Aspet."
The historic numismatic importance of this coin must be emphasized. Either this piece or the single other plain edge coin is the only example of any of his designs that Saint-Gaudens saw in person before his untimely death. According to Rubin:
"Not only do we have the world-famous artist Saint-Gaudens possessing one of these coins, but we have the other going to Roosevelt, who had taken such a personal interest in creating an artistic coinage that he was the person who prodded Saint-Gaudens to create the design. So even though we do not know the pedigree of the only known coin struck with a plain edge, we do know that the coin was either at one time in the possession of Saint-Gaudens or Roosevelt. Not a bad pedigree either way!"
Before this coin reappeared in our ANA 2010 Platinum Night, an article appeared in the CoinLink online news from July 26, 2010. An excerpt from that article below expresses a similar sentiment in a slightly different way, including a quote from Heritage President Greg Rohan:
"This coin's history is largely unknown, and it is impossible to say with certainty whether it was sent to Roosevelt or Saint-Gaudens, but it is a coin of tremendous importance regardless of the answer. Either it was sent to President Roosevelt, whose dedication to coinage redesign had been vital to the whole project; or it went to Saint-Gaudens, the artist who had spent more than two years bringing the President's ambition to life.
" 'With the Roosevelt specimen being returned to the Mint, it seems more likely that this is the coin Saint-Gaudens saw,' said Rohan. 'The possibility is remarkably poignant: a great artist, just days away from death, gets a glimpse of his last major work. This could be the only Saint-Gaudens gold coin that he ever held.' "
After a visit to the Smithsonian Institution in 1905 where he viewed an exhibit of Greek coins, Roosevelt commissioned world-renowned sculptor Saint-Gaudens to redesign the eagle and double eagle. For the eagle obverse, Saint-Gaudens chose a Liberty head that he had originally prepared for his Sherman Monument (which one can still see at the southern terminus of New York City's Central Park). Alice Butler posed as the model for this rendition of Liberty, which Saint-Gaudens based on a Hellenistic wingless Liberty on the temple of Zeus Soter at Pergamon. Although the sculptor originally placed an olive wreath on Liberty's head, Roosevelt insisted that it be replaced by an Indian feathered war bonnet. The president also switched Saint-Gaudens' original reverse design for the eagle with that for his double eagle, the former coin now displaying a majestic eagle striding left with a bundle of arrows and an olive branch in its claws. Thirteen stars around the upper obverse periphery, the date below Liberty, and the usual statutory inscriptions on the reverse rounded out the design of what would become famous as the Indian eagle. It should be noted that, at this juncture, the design omitted the motto IN GOD WE TRUST because Roosevelt felt the presence of the Deity's name on coinage was, in the words of Walter Breen (1988), "a debasement amounting to blasphemy."
The surfaces of this PR62 NGC-certified example have a fine-grained sandblast finish and are textured with a satiny finish. A few shallow luster grazes are faintly evident, but the only mark of any note is in the reverse field below the M in UNUM. The physical appearance of this plain edge piece is different from other Wire Rim Indian eagles. Rubin notes:
"... the other interesting thing about this coin is the appearance of the coin itself. It is quite different in appearance than all other 1907 Indian Head, Wire Rim eagles. For one thing the coin has a satin surface, not matte or the surface of a normal circulation strike. Secondly, after examining the photos of the only known example ... I noticed that the striking is very different than the rare 46 stars on edge variety. Most of the strike looks weaker on the plain edge coin. This is most apparent in the details of the Indian's headdress on the obverse and the eagle's feathers on the reverse. Yet, other parts of the strike look sharper on the plain edge issue, such as the Y in LIBERTY and the date"
The standard Wire Rim eagles with stars on the edge were set aside for collectors, specifically as President Roosevelt ordered. Normally experimental strikings were destroyed, but the Wire Rim tens were set aside, as Roosevelt waived the regulation requiring their destruction. The two plain edge coins were not only the first Indian eagles ever minted, but they are also the only true patterns of this issue, alongside four or five other examples that Burdette describes with "irregular stars" on the edge.
Few coins in American numismatic history are entitled to be called unique. This single 1907 Wire Rim Indian eagle with its plain edge is arguably even more important than the Ultra High Relief double eagles, and it deserves a place of honor in an advanced collection of U.S. coin rarities.
Ex: 2003 FUN Auction (Heritage, 1/2003), lot 8914, which brought $195,500; Stack's (7/2008), lot 4241, which garnered $322,000; ANA Platinum Night (Heritage, 8/2010), lot 3561, which realized $359,375. (NGC ID# 2AME, PCGS# 62236)
Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.
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Revised Edition by James L. Halperin, Mark R. Borckardt, Mark Van Winkle, Jon Amato, and Gregory J. Rohan, with special contributor David W. Akers
The Coinage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens is an issue-by-issue examination of these two artistically inspired series of gold coins.
Each date and mintmark is reviewed with up-to-date information, much of which has never been previously published. The book is based on
two extraordinary collections: The Phillip H. Morse collection and the Dr. and Mrs. Steven L. Duckor collection.
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